Two unique features of SARS-CoV-2 are convincing a growing number of scientists that it was man-made, and not the result of natural evolution, according to the Daily Telegraph.
First, the virus binds more strongly to human ACE2 enzymes than any other species, including bats.
Second, SARS-CoV-2 has a "furin cleavage site" missing in its closes bat-coronavirus relative, RaTG-13, which makes it significantly more infectious - a finding we reported in late February.
According to Israeli geneticist, Dr. Ronen Shemesh, the Furin site is the most unusual finding.
"I believe that the most important issue about the differences between ALL coronavirus types is the insertion of a Furin protease cleavage site at the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2," he said. "Such an insertion is very rare in evolution, the addition of such 4 Amino acids alone in the course of only 20 years is very unlikely."
Shamesh, who is working on a treatment for COVID-19, believes the novel coronavirus was most likely created in a lab, and did not evolve in nature.
"There are many reasons to believe that the COVID-19 generating SARS-CoV-2 was generated in a lab. Most probably by methods of genetic engineering," he said, adding "I believe that this is the only way an insertion like the FURIN protease cleavage site could have been introduced directly at the right place and become effective."
Dr Shemesh, who has a PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and over 21 years of experience in the field of drug discovery and development, said it is even “more unlikely” that this insertion happened in exactly the right place of the cleavage site of the spike protein - which is where it would need to occur to make the virus more infectious. -Daily Telegraph
"What makes it even more suspicious is that fact that this insertion not only occurred on the right place and in the right time, but also turned the cleavage site from an Serine protease cleavage site to a FURIN cleavage site," he added.
In January, a team of Indian scientists wrote in a now-retracted paper that the coronavirus may have been genetically engineered to incorporate parts of the HIV genome, writing "This uncanny similarity of novel inserts in the 2019- nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag is unlikely to be fortuitous in nature," meaning - it was unlikely to have occurred naturally.
Then, in February, a team of researchers in Nankai University noted that COVID-19 has an 'HIV-like mutation' that allows it to quickly enter the human body by binding with a receptor called ACE2 on a cell membrane.
Other highly contagious viruses, including HIV and Ebola, target an enzyme called furin, which works as a protein activator in the human body. Many proteins are inactive or dormant when they are produced and have to be “cut” at specific points to activate their various functions.
When looking at the genome sequence of the new coronavirus, Professor Ruan Jishou and his team at Nankai University in Tianjin found a section of mutated genes that did not exist in Sars, but were similar to those found in HIV and Ebola. -SCMP
According to the Nankai University study, the furin binding method is "100 to 1,000 times as efficient' as SARS at entering cells.
"This protein cleaving protein is highly promiscuous, it’s found in many human tissues and cell types and is involved in many OTHER virus types activation and infection mechanisms (it is involved in HIV, Herpes, Ebola and Dengue virus mechanisms)," said Dr. Shemesh. "If I was trying to engineer a virus strain with a higher affinity and infective potential to humans, I would do exactly that: I would add a Furin Cleavage site directly at the original less effective and more cell specific cleavage site."
Meanwhile, Flinders University Professor Nikolai Petrovsky found either "a remarkable coincidence or a sign of human intervention," telling the Telegraph that COVID-19 is "exquisitely adapted to humans."
"We really don’t know where this virus came from - that’s the truth. The two possibilities is that it was a chance transmission of a virus...the other possibility is that it was an accidental release of the virus from a laboratory," he said, adding "One of the possibilities is that an animal host was infected by two coronaviruses at the same time and COVID-19. The same process can happen in a petri-dish."
"In other words COVID-19 could have been created from that recombination event in an animal host or it could have occurred in a cell-culture experiment. I’m certainly very much in favour of a scientific investigation. Its only objective should be to get to the bottom of how did this pandemic happen and how do we prevent a future pandemic."
Meanwhile, if you can stand 26 minutes of adrenaline-inducing fear porn soundtrack, Australia's Sky News has put together a segment obliterating the wet market theory, noting China's poor track record of biolab security, and tying together much of the emerging findings supporting the lab-origin theory.